Heavyweight: 2014, Jun 9-15

The heavyweight week got off to an interesting start on Wednesday with the New Zealand version of Prizefighter, dubbed the “Super 8.”  The field was made up of 50% has-beens (some more viable than others) like Michael Sprott, Martin Rogan, Kali Meehan, Hasim Rahman, an inactive career high-level journeyman in Alonzo Butler, and 3 novices in Brice Ritani-Coe, Hunter Sam, and Antz Nansen.  I’m not sure if it was a random draw or a true seeding system (they called it seeding), but if it was the latter, it was a misbegotten attempt.  The correct order of seeding would have been #1 Sprott vs. #8 Brice Ritani-Coe, #2 Martin Rogan vs. #7 Antz Nansen, #3 Kali Meehan vs. #6 Hunter Sam, and #4 Hasim Rahman vs. #5 Alonzo Butler.  As it happened, the Meehan-Sam fight was an actual matchup, but the rest were not.  #1 Sprott instead fought #2 Rogan inexplicably in the first round, while #4 Rahman and #5 Butler each got what should have been easy matchups in Nansen and Ritani-Coe, respectively.  I’ll break down the action fight by fight.

 

Round 1
1. Hasim Rahman, the inactive former champion who looked awful in his last fight with Alexander Povetkin in 2012, looked even more awful against 3-2 novice Antz Nansen, whose inclusion in the tournament in the first place couldn’t have been more random.  Nansen was coming off back-to-back losses against bad fighters with losing records, including one by KO.  His last loss was against an 0-10 fighter, and so it would have been more reasonable to assume he was in the bottom 5% of all pro heavyweights than to assume he belonged in a ring even with  a badly faded Rahman.  But apparently Rahman’s fadedness knew no bounds.  His handspeed was non-existent, and his footwork and balance were pathetic.  He was almost totally non-threatening, as even if Nansen couldn’t see every shot coming about 5 seconds before it arrived, Rahman was reaching so badly that he couldn’t have had much power.  Even so, I gave him the first round in a close call before Nansen took the last two going away.  Two of the judges had it the same as me, while a third had it a shutout.

 

2. Alonzo Butler- an American who was once a serious prospect, but who failed the only two times he tried his hand with a top 50 opponent, and who has had only 2 fights since 2009- fought his own 3-2 novice in Brice Ritani-Coe.  Ritani-Coe had zero boxrec rankings points entering the fight, and while he did suffer a draw against a 3-5 nobody in 2012, his two actual losses were at least more forgivable.  He dropped a decision to Jerry Forrest, a 1-0 prospect who now has a loss, but only against legit prospect Gerald Washington, and in his next fight he dropped a decision to current hot prospect Joseph Parker.  For no reason at all, the mammoth Butler- who had more than 35 pounds on his 260 pound opponent, chose to try and fight like Miguel Vazquez.  He was on the back foot, by choice, the entire time, and honestly didn’t really seem to be trying before he appeared to gas out in the 2nd round.  You could make a case for Butler winning the 3rd, but I had it a shutout for Ritani-Coe, who won essentially just by working.  He came forward, which made him the aggressor by a mile, and threw punches with reasonable regularity.  It was an easy formula.  One judge, Jeff Nelson, turned in a 30-27 card in favor of Butler, which is one of the silliest things you’ll ever see.  The other two were more reasonable, scoring it 29-28 for Ritani-Coe, who advanced in the second upset in as many fights.

 

3. Tall Kiwi veteran Kali Meehan, a former contender aged 44 years and without a fight in over 2 years, got through some apparent rust and made it through a very competitive test against the 10-2 Hunter Sam, who fought well despite his record being probably a little better than the reality underlying it.  Meehan was actually trailing significantly in the vitally important 3rd round, but came back strong at the end to take it pretty clearly.  The already questionable Jeff Nelson struck again, scoring it for Sam.  Meehan advances, though not by a lot.
 
4. Michael Sprott vs. Martin Rogan was a fight that really shouldn’t have been possible until the finals, give or take.  Not only were both guys Prizefighter champions at some point (Sprott twice, including the most recent), but both have had relatively recent success against top 25 opposition.  Sprott won round one with ease, but with Rogan’s surprisingly straighter punches gave his shots greater leverage and power, and he hurt Sprott in the 2nd, and kept him in borderline buzzed status for the rest of the fight.  Rounds two and three were as clear for Rogan as round one was for Sprott, and thus the correct score was a very clear 29-28 Rogan.  But this time the judges went too far in crappiness, and botched the result.  Nelson wasn’t even involved, surprisingly.  Paul McSharry scored an even round in one of Rogan’s two, and therefore had it 29-29.  Laurie Glozier and Steve Miles inexplicably had it 29-28 for Sprott, and thus the wrong guy moved on in a clear robbery that marred a really good fight.

 

Round 2:
1. After an intermission that included a couple entertaining 4-rounders, Sprott returned on short rest and outpointed Nansen in what I would call a lackluster performance in a lackluster fight.  Basically Sprott won it simply by being first behind the jab.  It’s not that Nansen didn’t try, but he couldn’t grab the initiative and was ineffective and comparatively wild when he tried to counter, or to punch in general.  I had it a shutout, though all the rounds were kinda close, and round 1 in particular could have gone either way.  All the judges had it a shutout, just like me.  Putting Sprott in the Final despite winning a closely-contested fight against a nobody and, by all rights, losing to a gatekeeper in Rogan.

 

2. The action continued with Meehan vs. Ritani-Coe, who from now on I’ll just call Coe for brevity’s sake, in a battle of Kiwis at very different career stages.  Meehan landed almost at will early, apparently having left the rust of the first fight far behind him.  Despite the defensive lapses against a solid puncher, Coe showed impressive desire as Meehan began to look a little tired and sloppy from about the midway point of round 2.  By the third, Meehan was just looking to hold on, as Coe won that round going away with Meehan trying to hang on him.  29-28 was the clearly correct score, and all the judges got it right this time.  Meehan moves on to the final on shorter rest, and looking like the more tired fighter in the first place.

 

Final:
In a bit of a surprise, Sprott just got caught and dropped by Meehan, and continued getting caught until the fight was stopped after he rose in wobbly fashion from the first round’s second knockdown.

 

I doubt anyone has ever looked as bad in making the finals of a tournament like this.  A top 50 fighter was rightfully defeated twice in the tournament, and it was Sprott both times.  I’ll get to the rankings implications later.

 

Moving ahead to Friday, #12 Carlos Takam dominated the first 9 rounds against #9 Tony Thompson before apparently deciding to coast his way to three lackluster rounds to finish the fight, winning 117-111 on my card.  I don’t want to be too hard on Thompson, who follows me on Twitter and is a great guy, but even aside from probably not having the physical tools to compete with the strong and comparatively young Takam, he fought a terrible tactical fight.  He spent perhaps most of the fight with his back to the ropes and Takam more or less on his chest, which was not a fight he could remotely win considering his height, long arms, and slow hands.  Not only that, but he circled consistently to his left, especially early in the fight.  This not only lined him up nicely for Takam’s power shots, but also frequently rendered his own jab largely useless.  Robin Dolpierre and Daniel Van de Wiele had it the same as me at 117-111, while Barry Lindenman was maybe a little kind to Takam’s spoiling strategy late, but still had it fairly reasonably 119-109.

 

Finally, in Saturday action, 2-loss Liverpool prospect David Price (whose two losses were to Thompson, incidentally) turned in a workmanlike 10-round decision win over durable but ultimately low-level Ukrainian journeyman Yaroslav Zavorotnyi in Schwerin, Germany, in a fight that was anything but scintillating.  In fairness, Zavorotnyi had only been stopped twice in a long career- once to Valuev and once to Dimitrenko- and had gone an 8-round distance with no less than Kubrat Pulev.  So it’s not like Price let a bum hang around who was just looking to collect a check.  On the other hand, Price is supposed to be a much bigger puncher than any of the three guys mentioned above, and had built his pre-Thompson career on being an intimidating destroyer that knocked guys out viciously, generally in the first couple rounds.  This was only Price’s 3rd decision in 20 fights, and his first of over 6 rounds.  The bottom line is that regardless of Zavorotnyi’s bona fides, Price simply doesn’t look like the same monster that terrorized the likes of Audley Harrison less than a couple years ago.  He was very jab-heavy and cautious in the fight.  He does have a suspect chin and most likely won each of the first 7 rounds with those tactics, so perhaps it wasn’t the worst idea from a competitive perspective.  From an analytical perspective, however, it’s hard not to be down on a performance like that.  Frankly, Price looked like a guy trying to rebuild his technique from scratch.  In addition to the aforementioned caution and reliance on the jab, he was rather robotic and deliberate in letting his hands go, as if his offense was no longer flowing naturally.  I don’t know if it was fatigue, or if perhaps the Ukrainian just didn’t feel he had to worry as much about getting knocked out, and thus took more chances, but Zavorotnyi’s shots started finding a home behind Price’s gloves in the 8th round, and he had an argument to have won every round from that point on.  I gave him 8 and 9, personally, and scored it 98-92.  Gerhard Sigl agreed with my card.  Josef Temml had it 100-90, and thus probably didn’t watch the fight.  Joerg Milke turned in a 97-92 card, which is about right, but numerically puzzling nevertheless.  

 

Now to the rankings implications of all the above.  If Sprott had beaten Rogan legitimately before losing to Meehan, it might have given the Kiwi the fuel he needed to make a run at or near the top 20.  Since Sprott was slightly diminished by the Rogan fight instead of better for it, Meehan, Sprott, and Rogan all find themselves mired in the 30s.  Takam boosts himself to #7, halted only by Dereck Chisora, whose deserved win over #4-ranked Helenius is by far the best result between the two still, and who has only lost to the very top level (ie guys ranked #1-2 then or now).  Thompson drops less drastically than you might think, backtracking only the one place required by Takam’s promotion.  This is due largely to Adamek having no legitimate wins of consequence since 2012 to go with his loss to #18 Glazkov, while Thompson at least has the debatable win over #8 Solis to go with his wins over prospect Price and his loss to the more prestigious Takam.  This means that Adamek is forced from the top 10 after being an inaugural and continuous member of my top 10, and having been ranked by the Ring for 5 weeks before I started publishing.

 

Dan’s Top 20 (Weeks in current position-weeks in top 10 (if applicable)-weeks in top 20)
Champ: Wladimir Klitschko (259-472-472)
Last Fight: 4/26/2014- TKO5 #16 Alex Leapai
Next Fight: 9/6/2014- vs. #5 Kubrat Pulev
It’s looking all but certain that Wlad will fight Pulev on September 6.
1) Tyson Fury (17-17-17)
Last Fight: 2/15/2014- TKO4 Joey Abell (UNR)
Next Fight: 7/26/2014- vs. #6 Dereck Chisora
Fury-Chisora has been made.  July 26, in Manchester.  The winner will become one of Wlad’s mandatories.
2) Alexander Povetkin (2-346-346)
Last Fight: 5/30/2014- TKO7 Manuel Charr (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Povetkin made a case that he’s the most technically skilled heavyweight in the division with a beautifully-executed performance against an outclassed Charr.
3) Vyacheslav Glazkov (2-13-77)
Last Fight: 3/15/2014- UD12 #4 Tomasz Adamek
Next Fight: Unknown
Reports have a fight between Glazkov and Main Events stablemate Bryant Jennings being targeted for July on HBO.
4) Amir Mansour (10-10-10)
Last Fight: 4/4/2014- Robbery L (UD10) vs. #4 Steve Cunningham
Next Fight: Unknown
Cunningham had the more sympathetic story and a legitimately great comeback attempt, but Mansour had the better collection of rounds legitimately won.  Mansour was robbed even though the fight was close, and deserves Cunningham’s former position in the rankings for his effort.
5) Kubrat Pulev (17-110-187)
Last Fight: 4/5/2014- RTD3 Ivica Perkovic (UNR)
Next Fight: 9/6/2014- vs. Champ Wladimir Klitschko
See Klitschko’s notes, above.
6) Dereck Chisora (17-132-195)
Last Fight: 2/15/2014- UD12 Kevin Johnson (UNR)
Next Fight: 7/26/2014- vs. #1 Tyson Fury
See Fury’s notes, above.
7) Carlos Takam (1-1-21)
Last Fight: 6/6/2014- UD12 #9 Tony Thompson
Next Fight: Unknown
Takam’s potential appears nearly boundless after he handled Tony Thompson more easily than anyone not named Wladimir Klitschko.
8) Bermane Stiverne (1-5-67)
Last Fight: 5/10/2014- TKO6 #13 Chris Arreola
Next Fight: Unknown
Stiverne is hoping to fight Wilder sometime in November in either Montreal or Las Vegas.
9) Steve Cunningham (1-77-77)
Last Fight: 4/4/2014- Robbery W (UD10) vs. Amir Mansour (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
I hope you’ll all pray for his daughter to recover from her life-threatening health condition, and the guy had guts to come back from the 2 knockdowns.  But he didn’t win the fight.
10) Tony Thompson (1-12-211)
Last Fight: 6/6/2014- L (UD12) vs. #12 Carlos Takam
Next Fight: Unknown
Not that there’s any shame in being beaten by Takam necessarily, but Thompson’s performance was poor enough that you have to start wondering how much he has left.
11) Tomasz Adamek (1-216)
Last Fight: 3/15/2014- L (UD12) vs. #18 Vyacheslav Glazkov
Next Fight: Unknown
Adamek expects to return on October 18.  Not much detail yet, but Ray Austin is a potential opponent.
12) Odlanier Solis (1-211)
Last Fight: 3/22/2014- L* (SD12) vs. #13 Tony Thompson
Next Fight: Unknown
The Solis haters are out in force, claiming a clear loss in a fight that Solis deserved to win.  You might not like his physique or his training habits or his style, but if he outfights the other guy, he still deserves to be respected as a winner at least as much as a disappointment.  A loss to Thompson is not that embarrassing, especially when you ought to have won it.
13) Deontay Wilder (5-59)
Last Fight: 3/15/2014- KO1 #19 Malik Scott
Next Fight: Unknown
See Stiverne’s notes, above.
14) Chris Arreola (5-40)
Last Fight: 5/10/2014- L (TKO6) vs. #12 Bermane Stiverne
Next Fight: Unknown
Having spent the better part of the last 5 years losing or fighting nobodies, Arreola’s resume now depends entirely on the Mitchell win.
15) Erkan Teper (10-41)
Last Fight: 11/16/2013- KO1 Martin Rogan (UNR)
Next Fight: 6/13/2014- vs. Newfel Ouatah (UNR)
Teper may have upgraded his opponent slightly when Ouatah replaced a slightly less-impressive French prospect in Duhaupas on just about 5 days’ notice.
16) Alex Leapai (10-29)
Last Fight: 4/26/2014- L (KO5) vs. Champ Wladimir Klitschko
Next Fight: Unknown
Leapai is reportedly interested in fighting Shannon Briggs in the wake of his total non-performance against the Champ.
17) Andy Ruiz (10-29)
Last Fight: 5/17/2014- TKO2 Manuel Quezada (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Even against a faded Quezada who showed little resistance, I must confess to being impressed by Ruiz’s skill and heavy hands, especially considering the sharp contrast between his physique and the results it yields.
18) Seth Mitchell (10-53)
Last Fight: 9/7/2013- L (TKO1) vs. Chris Arreola (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Mitchell’s chin is so fragile that he might want to consider calling it a career.  Golden Boy’s CEO says he’s advised Mitchell to do just that, though he reports that Mitchell seems to have no such intention.
19) Johnathon Banks (10-14)
Last Fight: 6/22/2013- L (UD12) vs. #20 Seth Mitchell
Next Fight: Unknown
Banks had an offer to fight in the Auckland Super 8 Tournament on June 6, but either turned it down or failed to respond.  He’ll need to schedule something else in the next few weeks to avoid removal for inactivity.
20) Francesco Pianeta (10-13)
Last Fight: 5/30/2014- KO1 Mickael Vieira (UNR)
Next Fight: Unknown
Pianeta says he wants to give Vieira a rematch due to the flukey broken arm that KO’d the Frenchman.  The fight was a waste of time the first time, honestly, so I’m not sure we need a second helping, regardless of the reason.

 

THE WEEK AHEAD:
Monday
Arnold Gjergjaj vs. Tibor Balogh; Kaltacker, Switzerland; TV Unknown
Gjergjaj is an undefeated prospect from Kosovo originally, who now lives in Switzerland.  He’s 24-0, but still about as unproven as a top 50 fighter could possibly be.  Even so, Balogh is far from his best opponent to date, being a low-level journeyman from Hungary.

 

Ian Lewison vs. Kreso Bogdanovic; Glasgow, Scotland; Off TV
I consider Lewison a borderline top 50 fighter on the basis of a loss against Derric Rossy in Prizefighter that I thought should have been a win.  Bogdanovic is a terrible Croatian who has only once beaten a fighter with even a single win, that being the 4-8 Werner Kreiskott.

 

Friday
#15 Erkan Teper vs. Newfel Ouatah; Munich, Germany; TV Unknown
Teper is finally back in the ring after his vicious demolition of Martin Rogan’s jaw in November.  It’s kinda shocking that Rogan, whose career appeared to be over at that time, beat Teper back to action by 9 days.  Germany’s Teper has a reasonably decent opponent on his hands, or at least that appears to be a strong possibility.  Ouatah is an unbeaten Frenchman who boasts the exact same 12-0 record as Teper.  That being said, Teper is ranked due to his having been in with- and beaten- the much better competition.  Ouatah’s best wins are a couple domestic-level French journeymen in Gregory Tony and Mickael Vieira.  Those guys were nothing to write home about, but there’s a substantial drop-off from them to the next-best guy on Ouatah’s record.  Nevertheless, he disposed of both of them by stoppage, and you can never write off a guy who’s never lost, or really come close to losing as far as I can tell.  Teper needed a grand total of just over 4 minutes to stop Rogan and Michael Sprott, another fringe contender, in his last two fights.
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